The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which represents John Deere and other ag equipment firms, is throwing its support behind an effort to pour federal money into rebuilding the U.S. semiconductor industry.

The CHIPS bill that the Senate is considering would authorize $50 billion for a CHIPS for America Fund that would be used in part to develop domestic manufacturing capability.

According to a recent AEM survey of industry CEOs, some 79% have raised prices on products due to chip shortages. Nearly nine in ten CEOs say increasing domestic production of components and semiconductors will reduce supply chain constraints.  

AEM continues to urge Congress to pass a broader competitiveness bill.

“While we welcome efforts to incentivize semiconductor production in the United States, it is imperative that Congress continues to work on bipartisan measures that will strengthen domestic supply chains, bolster emerging technologies, and invest in the American worker,” said Kip Eideberg, AEM’s senior vice president of government and industry relations.

Top House Ag Republican denounces drought bill

A key Republican says the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act that the House is debating today is nothing more than a Democratic messaging bill.

“This bill is duplicative of current authorities, lacks much-needed regulatory reforms, and is a complete dereliction of process, as provisions with jurisdiction across multiple committees, including Agriculture, were never considered through regular order,” said Glenn Thompson, the top Republican on the House Ag Committee. Democrats should “go back to the drawing board so together, we can craft meaningful policy changes to actually reduce the threat and intensity of catastrophic wildfires.”

The bill would, among other things, require USDA to implement a 10-year national plan to reduce the risk of wildfires while protecting old-growth forests and wildlife habitat. USDA also would have to report on potential ag disaster losses in 2022 as well as the amount of payments being made under existing programs for 2020 and 2021 losses

Democrats say the bill would help address the impacts of climate change.

Opening of Odessa ports seen bringing influx of foreign currency

Ukraine is counting on the resumption of grain exports from Odesa ports to bring in much-needed foreign currency to the war-torn country, according to government officials. Dock workers have already started preparing for grain shipments out of three Odesa ports after a deal struck Friday by Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations.

"For us, it is fundamentally important that Ukraine receives foreign exchange earnings, and the opening of ports in particular will allow us to receive at least a billion dollars a month,” said Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov.

The reopening of the ports is also critical for the survival of Ukraine’s farmers, who have been suffering through extremely low prices because the domestic market is saturated and alternate export routes are costly.

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Kubrakov also stressed that he expects the Joint Coordination Center – the new facility where Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the United Nations will monitor Black Sea agricultural trade – to be fully functional by today.

For more on the Ukraine crisis, plus a look at where ag labor reforms stand in the Senate, read our weekly Agri-Pulse newsletter.

Hydroponics appeal to be argued today in California

A federal appeals court will hear arguments today in the long-running battle over whether hydroponic operations can be certified as organic.

A district court judge sided with USDA’s interpretation in an opinion last year, prompting an appeal by major organic farms and the Center for Food Safety. The Coalition for Sustainable Organics, Aquaponics Association, and Western Growers Association are among those who have filed a friend-of-the-court brief siding with USDA.

The arguments at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco, Courtroom 1) are likely to start between 1-2 pm ET.

Pandemic payments beginning to cover spot market hog sales

USDA expects to begin making about $63 million in payments this week to hog producers under the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program, which covers spot sales from April 16, 2020, through Sept. 1, 2020.

“In order to provide more targeted support to hog producers affected by the pandemic, FSA was able to increase funding for SMHPP to provide full payments to producers instead of applying a payment factor,” said Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux.

The payments will be calculated by multiplying the number of head of eligible hogs, not to exceed 10,000 head, by the payment rate of $54 per head.

USDA originally considered pro-rating the payments if the total exceeded $50 million but dropped that plan. That decision was lauded by Terry Welters, the president of the National Pork Producers Council, who said the funds will “contribute to the ongoing recovery of the U.S. pork industry."

USAID officials to testify at House hearing on global food security

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will examine issues related to global food security at a hearing today.

Two officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development will testify: Maura Barry, senior deputy assistant administrator of the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, and Sarah Charles, assistant to the administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

He said it. “I want to know when they’re going to get off the pot and do something.” - Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on his plan to press Doug McKalip, President Biden’s nominee as chief ag trade negotiator, about the administration’s inaction on new trade deals. McKalip will appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

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